Auto Express inadvertently proves that drivers of cars are more likely to jump red lights than cyclists

Doubtless you are now familiar with the entirely bogus Auto Express ‘survey’ of offences committed by cyclists and motorists at Highbury Corner; the most notable ‘offences’ committed by cyclists including not wearing hi-visibility clothing, and that of not wearing a helmet, which together make up a staggering 54% of all the cycling ‘offences’ counted by the Auto Express plodders.

The Alternative Department for Transport has already conducted its own survey of offences committed by Auto Express staff, finding (scientifically, of course) that 78% of them are shitebags. However, the Auto Express poll puts me in mind of some other common offences that cyclists commit, which for some reason weren’t counted by their staff – ‘loitering with intent to use a pedestrian crossing’, ‘smelling of foreign food’, ‘coughing without due care and attention’,  ‘cycling in a loud shirt in a built up area during the hours of darkness’, or indeed ‘cycling around with an offensive wife.’

A good job that Auto Express journalists aren’t police officers.

Even if we take their absurd survey seriously, it doesn’t quite show what Auto Express believe it to. The most damaging statistic, at face value, is that 58 of the 974 cyclists observed jumped the lights – 5.9% of the total – while only 0.4% of the 3140 cars observed did the same.

However, if we include the listed offences of crossing the stop line and waiting in the advanced cycle stop box – we find that 178 cars technically jumped the lights. This is a percentage of the total number of cars of 5.6% – very similar to the percentage of cyclists committing this offence.

This is even before we take into account the fact that a substantial percentage of those 3140 cars observed would not have had the opportunity to jump the lights; they would have been stuck in a queue, trapped behind other vehicles, whereas nearly every single cyclist would have had the opportunity to cross the stop line on each red signal. So what the Auto Express survey has actually shown is that motorists are in fact more predisposed to jumping red lights than people on bicycles.

I trust that will be the headline result in their print edition.

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17 Responses to Auto Express inadvertently proves that drivers of cars are more likely to jump red lights than cyclists

  1. It is nice to see the idea of motorists in a queue being unable to jump red lights even if they wanted to is catching on. You’d think that a business which is based entirely upon cars would be more mindful of this.

    PS: Any chance of updating my link on your blogroll?

  2. Auto Express do appear to have scored a rather impressive own goal on this one, I originally had this “survey” brought to my attention through a friend on Facebook but only had the online version so now break down of the stats 😉

  3. stayontheroofs says:

    I posted on the linked website that this horrendous article is a misrepresentation of the facts and a breach of the Press Complaints Commission’s code of conduct, which states:

    i) The Press must take care not to publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information, including pictures.

    ii) A significant inaccuracy, misleading statement or distortion once recognised must be corrected, promptly and with due prominence, and – where appropriate – an apology published. In cases involving the Commission, prominence should be agreed with the PCC in advance.

    I encourage everyone who’s reading this to make a complaint via the PCC’s website:

  4. Schrödinger's Cat says:

    The big thing for me is that according to AE’s statistics, almost a quarter of traffic was made up of bicycles! And this is with the roads as bike-hostile as they are, as spend on cycling will be nowhere near a quarter of the budget. Imagine how many of those car users would switch to bike if cycle infrastructure investment matched the peak-hour modal share…

    • Fruity Blue says:

      BTW, the question at the end of the Constable Savage clip – “Is this your hedgehog, sir?” – was part of a running joke with The Not the Nine O’Clock News team. To see how it concluded, click here.

  5. Paul M says:

    Sadly, I think the damage may already be done. No doubt many people wil have picked up the headlines either from their website or through reporting in other media (Daily Mail, anyone?) and will not have read the detail, so will not be able to conside for themselves whether not wearing a loud tabard in a built-up area is actually an offence.

    I recall it is not long since the Institute of Advanced Motorists, a (relatively) reputable representative of motoring interests, issued a highly misleading press release about cyclists in a self-selected survey who jumped red lights (but apparently in the vast majority of cases, only rarely). We can be reasonably sure that this, however misleading, was enough to make a load of mouth-foaming golf-club jag types fulmiate over their G&Ts about rogue cyclists and how they should be banned from the roads (if only).

  6. Downfader says:

    I was once arrested for Cycling Around with an Offensive Wife, though upon inspection they realised she wasn’t mine.

  7. RobbieC says:

    Did all the motorists pass cyclists as directed by rule 163 in the highway code? I would be surprised,

  8. Saw this on the Facebook group last night:

    Head of Dennis Publishing orders AutoExpress to pull cyclist article: “as cyclist and ex-journo there is too much wrong with AE piece. It comes down ASAP”


  9. Beany says:

    I’m also intrugued by the high number of RLJs performed in cars given the balancing factor of the majority of cars being unable to do it once someone decides not to and blocks their way (as chestercycling says). I’m going to try to verbalise my musings- and probably not very well…

    I wonder how many light phases there were in the survey. I’d be interested to see the percentage of these phases in which a car jumped a red light verses the number of phases in which a cycle did as an attempt to equalise up the ‘opportunity’ element.

    Thus the 178 ‘technical’ RLJs from cars represents the front car in the queue committing an offence at the lights what percentage of the time (the volume of traffic becomes irrelevant as the sixth car back from the lights is never able to RLJ)

    Meanwhile over the same number of light phases only 58 cyclists jumped the lights (despite a far higher proportion of them having the ‘opportunity’ as one bike stopped at the lights does not preclude others from continuing on (though there can be a sheep mentality it seems sometimes as to whether people stop or not based on the first few to the junction)

  10. Auto Express Fan says:

    You are a bunch of stupid cycle-nazis. Have you any idea how scary it can be driving at night when a cyclist wearing no hi-vis and no lights swerves in front of you? No, you don’t, because otherwise you would understand Auto Express properly. — Auto Express subscriber and fan.

    • Calm down you driving-nazi, maybe if you understood the law properly you’d realize that the only part that is an offence in what you’ve listed there is the “riding without lights” which is just plain stupid and annoys me as both a cyclist and a motorist, having said that it’s rare that I find that such a rider just magically appears, some will be on the pavement and then even with street lights it possible to spot them on the approach in/on either vehicle. Having said that I’d say I see more drivers with defective lights then I do unlit cyclists and have in recent weeks seen 3 cars without lights on at night which they really have no excuse for compared to cyclists.

      The wearing of hi-viz is only a recommendation, probably born out of the need to try and make it easier for drivers who aren’t paying enough attention to what’s on the road ahead of them, to spot cyclists. Maybe if cyclists wearing hi-viz was so important they could make it law but then I’d also hope they ban all dark coloured cars and force those who do have them to get them re-painted into something easier to see like yellow, orange or that lurid green Ford offer the Focus ST in 😉

      As for your “how scary” example I’d suggest you probably have no idea how scary it is for a driver to swerve within inches of you whilst you’re on a bike, pass you whilst overtaking with less than a foot to spare or my personal “favourite” the overtake to turn left which shows not only a complete lack of respect but impatience and a lack of forward planning on the drivers part.

    • DJC says:

      Oi excuse me Auto Express Fan (troll) I use lights, as do the others here. You’re preaching to the converted. Wheres MY consideration from drivers? Eh..? When are they going to start learning the laws and rights of riders? When are they going to start using the OTHER lane instead of trying to clip my hand with their wing mirror?


    • Highway code rule 213:
      Motorcyclists and cyclists may suddenly need to avoid uneven road surfaces and obstacles such as drain covers or oily, wet or icy patches on the road. Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make.

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